Oriel College at the 2022 Summer Eights

Oriel College at the 2022 Summer Eights

Yesterday marked the final day of the 2022 Summer Eights (Oxford University’s principal “bumping” race - a format in which rowing crews attempt to bump their boats into one another) and another victory for Oriel College, the most successful college boat club in Oxford during the last fifty years.

Rowing blazers, naturally, are prized possessions and important indicators of social cachet at Oriel. They have also occasionally been involved in the mischief made by rival colleges: when an Oriel captain’s blazer goes missing, it can usually be found the following week in Christ Church’s Tom Quad, where the statue of Mercury will inevitably be wearing it.

There are a wide range of symbols and accoutrements associated with Oriel rowing. The Prince of Wales’ feathers badge on the blazer pocket began as a hat badge in the club’s earliest years and reflects Oriel’s royalist tradition: the college was the first royal foundation in Oxford and hosted the Privy Council during the English Civil War.

Members of the first VIII wear three blue stripes on their blazer sleeves, while second VIII rowers wear two, and all others one. A stylized tortoise is the symbol of the men’s senior crews, whose members are entitled to wear dark blue tortoise ties and waistcoats. This emblem has been used since the 1930s, when the boat club’s beloved pet tortoise even had its parturitions recorded in The Times (“On May 28, 1938, at Oriel College, Oxford, to Georgina, wife of O.C. Testudo – a son”).

Our founder Jack Carlson coached the Oriel crew to two Headships during his time at Oxford, and yesterday Oriel once again defended its place as Head of the River for yet another Summer Eights. Rowing Blazers is proud to sponsor this historic club. To learn more about the striped, piped, trimmed and badged blazers that are still worn by oarsmen and oarswomen around the world - and the rituals, elite athletes, prestigious clubs and legendary races associated with them - consider the book that started it all: Jack Carlson’s Rowing Blazers.

Race images from the 2012 and 2014 Summer Eights, coached by Jack Carlson. Detail images from Jack Carlson's Rowing Blazers, captured by F.E. Castleberry.